Marjorie Holmes, an inspirational author and columnist often called "the patron saint of housewives" and whose work was panned by critics but embraced by readers who made many of her 32 books bestsellers, has died. She was 91.
Holmes died March 13 at a nursing home in Manassas, Va., following a series of strokes.
The Iowa-born writer had a knack for making God and biblical personages accessible to ordinary people and for relating religion and prayer to such real-life challenges as women's liberation and the drug culture.
Holmes wrote a twice-weekly syndicated column, "Love and Laughter," for the now-defunct Washington, D.C., Star from 1959 to 1973 and a monthly column, "A Woman's Conversations With God," for the same paper from 1970 to 1975.
She also wrote regularly for the Daily Guideposts publication and for McCall's, Reader's Digest and Ladies' Home Journal magazines.
But her books gained her a much wider audience.
Among them was the highly popular fictionalized trilogy of the birth and life of Jesus Christ--"Two From Galilee" published in 1972, "Three From Galilee: The Young Man From Nazareth" in 1985, and "The Messiah" in 1987.
Typically expressing what critics thought of much of Holmes' writing, David Streitfeld sniffed in the Washington Post Book World: "Marjorie Holmes' 'Two From Galilee,' although no doubt deeply felt, is awkward enough to be cited in bad-writing seminars."
Yet the book sold millions and was one of the 10 best-selling novels of 1972. The novel about the love story of Mary and Joseph was also a personal favorite of the author.
"Two From Galilee," Holmes told the Dallas News, "means more to me than anything else I have ever written. If I had never written anything else besides this book, I would still feel like I had accomplished something."
Asked why the trilogy had been so incredibly successful, Holmes said, "I made the Holy Family as real as the folks next door."
Also among Holmes' bestsellers were four books of conversational prayers, beginning with the 1969 volume "I've Got to Talk to Somebody, God."
Holmes turned major events in her own life into books. When Lynn Mighell, her husband of 47 years, died of cancer in 1979, she wrote about her efforts to prolong his life.
The result was "God and Vitamins: How Exercise, Diet and Faith Can Change Your Life," which a Times reviewer called "a delicious, personable book for everyone--even atheists.
"Based on common sense, sound medical guidance and personal guinea-pigism," the reviewer continued, "the book dispenses a cornucopia of excellent advice about the body human and what it needs to survive our stress-laden, additive-polluted world. A word of warning: The food descriptions could make you drool."
Holmes wrote another book in that period about easing grief, "To Help You Through the Hurting," and soon met an appreciative reader who became her second husband, Dr. George Schmieler, who had just lost his first wife. That union led to another book, "Second Wife, Second Life." Schmieler died in 1992.
Educated at Buena Vista and Cornell colleges in Iowa, Holmes tried farming in Texas and worked in radio in Illinois and Ohio, scripting fashion shows and children's programs.
She published her first novel, "World by the Tail," in 1943, and for the next few years wrote books for teenage girls.
Her inspirational books largely began with "Love and Laughter," the 1967 collection of her columns.
She lectured widely throughout her career, and taught writing in various seminars and at Washington-area universities.
Holmes is survived by three children, a sister, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.